Norfolk has limit on number of yard sales per household
Spring is the time of year when Norfolk residents find out which of their neighbours have gone into the yard sale business.
It usually starts around the Victoria Day holiday weekend and keeps up until neighbours start calling their councillors.
Until the bylaw officer comes knocking, many are surprised to learn that yard sales are regulated and that the opportunity to stage them is strictly limited.
“As soon as some people get their foot in the door, they push harder and harder until it’s wide open,” says Simcoe Coun. Peter Black. “If you want to run a business like that, rent a store downtown and open up a junk shop.”
Yard sales are a popular fact of life in many communities. Someone somewhere is holding one on the weekend, sometimes even in winter.
But they quickly wear out their welcome once it becomes clear that the organizer has a long-term plan. That’s when councillors’ phones begin to chime.
In point of fact, a large yard sale with lots of great items can be highly disruptive. It starts with the early birds showing up at dawn hoping to get the pick of the litter. With that comes noise and congestion on subdivision streets and busy roads that weren’t built to handle that.
“I remember when I worked that I used to like sleeping in on Saturday morning,” says Port Dover Coun. John Wells. “It can get noisy with people yelling back and forth `Hey – come have a look at this.’
“People don’t mind their neighbours having a yard sale once in a while. But if it continually interferes with people’s way of life, that’s not good either.”
Under county bylaw, householders are allowed to have a one-day auction or a three-day yard sale once a year. Beyond that, neighbours can complain and bylaw officers will pay a visit.
Some of the reasons for limiting yard sales are subtle.
For one, weekly yard sales aren’t fair to merchants in commercial zones.
The commercial tax rate in Norfolk is about 2.7-times the residential tax rate. Holders of frequent yard sales often venture into new, packaged merchandise over which they have a significant cost advantage.
Black recalled a time many years ago in Simcoe when fly-by-night vendors would rent vacant storefronts or large buildings near the core for “one-time auctions” of cheap, oak-veneer furniture.
Trouble is, the same vendor would stage the same auction every couple of weeks. Bylaws were changed to restrict the practice after area merchants complained.
“We have zoning and we have community planning,” Black said. “Planning is there to ensure common elements such as residential, commercial and industrial are clustered together in one area.
“Residential areas are designed for residential purposes. You live there and you relax there. As soon as you start changing the use, you create problems.”